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The Name Game

No mainpage - not that this would warrant it, but it could spark a discussion, which is a hallmark of stuff that gets MP'ed.

A Facebook friend posted an Atlantic article which recites statistics demonstrating that names that "sound white" give people an advantage in life - they're more likely to be hired; female attorneys with masculine names are 4x more likely to become judges; teachers have lower expectations for kids with "black sounding" names... etc. But these "white names" are always very traditional - David, James, etc.


I've read this before and also heard about it on a Freakonomics podcast. The thing that always sticks out to me is that there is never any analysis of names that read white but are newly created within the past decade or are "creative" spellings. I mean names you find in rural, white America, like Braxton, Caden, Chesnee, Cyleigh, Makinley, Jameyson, Braylee and Havin (aka Haven). (These are all names I've seen pop up in my Facebook feed from my small, rural hometown.)

I have always been irritated with racist white people from my hometown who say awful things about African-American names, but then they name their kids one of the names set out above - they'd be outraged if anyone was classist and discriminated against their kid. But I don't understand how white people making up or creatively spelling names is any different than the unique names African-American parents bestow upon their kids. It's the same. And neither of them should be judged. [ETA: As was pointed out to me in the comments, the way this is phrased overlooks that so many African-American names have long histories that some white people are ignorant of, so the comparison of a "made up" white name to those names is not an accurate comparison.]

Has anyone else noticed this deficit in the studies? Or am I just overlooking that the names read fairly obviously white and white privilege would compensate for the non-traditional spellings?

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